First Hunt of the Season


“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected” Robert Frost

He was coming from some place far away. It was dark, and he couldn’t seem to find the path. Then he was underwater and he kicked and struggled to get to the surface. Just before he broke through he was guided by a strange noise, he had no idea what it was but pulled toward it.

The cheap alarm radio bounced when his hand hit it. The alarm stopped buzzing but a country station blared out a song about beer and a girl sitting on the tailgate of a truck. He turned the radio down but left it on; afraid he would fall back into the abyss of sleep. Pulling himself upright, he put his feet on the floor and thought this might be the hardest thing he would do all day.  Coffee was made in the kitchen wearing only his underwear and socks, the cabin was cold but he thought it might wake him up.

For some reason it seemed to take him forever to get dressed, like he could not decide which camouflage pants to wear or what to put on first. The first cup of coffee finally started to work and he felt some confidence return, he thought he might be able to do this now. Allowing a few minutes to sit and watch the fan on the ceiling go around, he thought about how many mornings he must have done this. Why did it seem so hard now just to get up and go turkey hunting?

Settling for a banana to eat he went out the door with a cup of cold coffee but higher hopes for a good day. Frowning at a stiff wind blowing he threw his vest in the truck hoping everything was in it. He had sorted it out the night before knowing there wouldn’t be time in the morning. Pushing the truck a little too fast going up the mountain, he didn’t want to be late to meet his buddy at the gate. As they chatted on the way to their spot, he sensed some of the old self-doubt returning. . Sometimes other hunters seemed to place a level of confidence in him that he felt unworthy of, it made him feel like a despicable fraud, as if he had deceived a small child.

Stumbling through the darkness to the listening post did nothing to boost his confidence or raise his spirits. The branches of small saplings tore at his arms; he didn’t remember them being so unfriendly. When they finally gained the ridge he was relieved to see that his buddy was as out of breath as he was. Pulling out the owl call he apologized for using it. He had always prided himself in hooting with his voice to make a turkey gobble.  Now he said he just didn’t seem to have the wind. Twice they stopped to sit and call and during this time they talked about a little bit of everything. His buddy seemed to want talk, so he joined in. After a while he realized that he wanted to talk as well.

Long past sunrise they stopped at the last listening place before they would leave the ridge. When he hooted the turkey gobbled 400 yards due east from where they stood, he signaled to his friend, and they were off. He knew almost exactly where they should sit. Knowing his friend would offer no opinion, he asked him anyway. His buddy wouldn’t suggest anything so he sat about fifteen yards behind him and called. The turkey answered his second call but then didn’t gobble for another 30 minutes, and he didn’t seem to have moved much.

Knowing this could take all morning, he decided to use one of his old tactics, get comfortable and take a nap. He hoped his friend would stay alert, but he was too far away for a whisper.  He was dreaming about hunting with his son when he realized there was a turkey drumming nearby. Glancing at his partner, he saw that the barrel of the shotgun had been shifted to the left. A few minutes later the top of the gobblers fan come into view. From his position, he knew he could see it but his buddy could not. The turkey let out an earth shaking gobble and he stifled a laugh as he watched his buddy’s gun barrel move in a little nervous circle.

The sun was warm on his shoulders and even with the turkey this close he thought he could doze again. He knew this turkey may or may not step into view, and while he hoped it would so for his buddy, the old do or die urgency was not there. It was a good day, he could still walk up the mountain and he was pretty sure he would be able to get out of bed in the morning.